An Interview with Special Teams Coach Dan Ferrigno

Phil had the chance to interview Michigan Football Coach Dan Ferrigno some time back and I decided to highlight it as we get closer to the season. The following is 100% accurate, yet not completely word for word. The interview was taken in the spring:Dan Ferrigno

Philosophy on Coaching Special Teams:

First of all it is to be sound at what you do and not change every week. We’ll put in a base in the spring time. We’ll have a core of four coaches that help me that will be committed. I’m lucky to work for a coach that loves special teams. Special teams are going to be important here at Michigan. Brady will be very involved. We will get a good punt game and get a good luck at our kickers under pressure and develop return units. We will evaluate players and how they can fit into our scheme.

Mentality of Special Teams Players:

Unselfish guys. The term the team, the team, the team applies here. That’s what its all about. If you’re the offensive coordinator, you don’t want the third team running back in there. If you’re the special teams coordinator, like myself, then I don’t want the third string linebacker. I want the best players that are excited to be in there and want to win the game. Now as the year goes on, there will be injuries and we need to have a depth of players that can perform.

How do you profile Return Men:

Catch the ball, first and foremost. Make good judgments and good decisions. Good punt and kick returners that don’t catch the ball while they’re going out of bounds, that’s stupid. A kickoff returner, I like to have a guy that can go the distance, but I’m more interesting in a tough one cut guy that will hit it and get it and run as fast as he can and not put the ball on the ground. A punt returner, I want pure speed. A good combination of quickness with good hands. Here is a fact for you. Every time the ball hits the ground on a punt, you lose 17 yards of field position.

On punts inside the 5:

They will stand on the 10 yard line, they will not backup. That’s what they’re supposed to do. I had a guy at Oregon St years ago go back and field one on the 3. I’m screaming “You dumb son of a” and he took it the distance. It was the wrong decision, but it worked out that one time.

Preparing Players for the Unexpected:

Your system should handle anything they throw out there. We have had things emerge during the game and the problem with coaching special teams is that at any time your players will be on the field and on different sides of the sideline with their respective groups. We’ve practiced things that are really hard on the team to prepare them. Even if the opponent doesn’t run it, to have them better prepared. I go over the last two years of scouting reports for each opponent.